The holidays are a very different experience when you have a baby in the house. Gone are those days when you simply showed up in relatives’ houses, ate, drank, and made merry without a care in the world. Now you have to pack extra diapers and hand sanitizer, and (in my case) spend most of your time making sure your toddlers don’t destroy a relative’s home. Keeping your baby happy, healthy, and on a good sleep schedule is especially challenging over the holiday season. Here are some tips to help make sure all of your holidays are jolly.
Taking Baby Out in Public
It takes a certain amount of courage to face the holiday crowds with a baby in tow, but sometimes it’s necessary. Here are some tips for braving the sea of humanity at malls and stores and other crowded places.
- Hand sanitizer. It seems like such a basic thing, but you can never have enough of this stuff. You’ll touch things and your baby might touch things too. Remember that every piece of merchandise was probably hand-stocked by a clerk and handled by other customers too. It’s also good for when strangers come up and touch your baby’s hands.
- No touch! Speaking of which, be prepared for the dual effect that a baby and the holiday season can have on people. Total strangers will come up and tickle your baby’s foot, hold his hand, or touch his face. If you can prevent this bodily or with a quick [kind] word, do so. I like to say “Ooh, he’s just getting over a cold.” That usually has people keep their hands to themselves.
- Use stroller or car seat canopies or a blanket to protect your baby. These help keep out chills, sneezes, and over-curious strangers. I recently was on a trip and saw a couple with a newborn drape a lightweight Aden+Anais blanket over their baby’s car seat/stroller.
See also our article on traveling with infants for more good advice on taking your baby out in public!
Visiting Friends and Relatives
Few times are better than the holiday season to show off your cute little baby to family and friends. That said, holiday gatherings bring new sources of concern when you’re taking a baby along. You have to watch out for hazards, especially in rooms that aren’t babyproofed. You have to keep the baby fed and entertained. And you have to avoid germs as much as possible. Keep these tips in mind:
- Prep and pack in advance. Remember to bring diapers, a change of clothes, a bottle or sippy cup, a pacifier on a clip. If the party will go late, bringing pajamas and a nighttime diaper isn’t a bad idea.
- Bring your own stuff and keep track of it. Especially things like sippy cups and pacifiers, which tend to be grabbed by any toddler who sees them. It’s better to keep your child’s sippy cup with you on the table, and let him or her come by for a drink.
- Watch for babyproofing hazards. Unsecured furniture, fragile decorations, places to fall, and sharp objects are just some of the things your little one might encounter in a house that’s not babyproofed.
- Preheat the car. This is such a little thing, but it makes babies much happier and cozier when you have the car all warmed up by the time they’re loaded. Also, the first thing we do when we get in the car is hand-sanitize all the babies’ hands. God knows what they touched when you weren’t looking.
Maintaining Your Baby’s Sleep Schedule
One down side to the holidays is that they can wreak havoc on your baby’s sleep schedule.
- Arrive on time, leave early. You’ll notice that most parents with small children scoot out of a party at around 7 or 8:00 because that’s when babies and small children generally go to bed. These are the “veterans” who understand that a good night’s sleep for the baby pays far more dividends than another cocktail or smoked sausage.
- Plan for naps. If you have an engagement that would normally be in the middle of your baby’s sleepy time, try to get the day started early so that the nap can be going on. Or, if you’re having people over, just let the little ones sleep and wake up when it’s time (as unrealistic as that may be when you get a houseful). See also our answers to common baby nap questions.
- Encourage sleeping in the car. Comfy clothes, clean diaper, pacifier, and sometimes a soft blankie will encourage your little one to snooze in the car on the way to and from places. Those little half hour naps can make a difference!